At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Better Than We Once Were: Part 3

Coming down the home stretch...As I multitask while watching a Season 2 episode of The Walking Dead (prepping for this Sunday's season premiere), I am thinking about the final leg of the three-legged stool as we at Westminster Christian Academy seek to "raise the academic profile".

Obviously, when one person or a group want to make impact in an area, the tempting thing can be to make "immediate impact." Success is--in our American timetable tendency--something that must be rapid and measurable. This is understandable. We like to have documented results that we can put in our public relations literature. There are a host of reasons why we often make massive sea changes, curricular tidal waves, and such and such. And that's why it's helpful to know that...

(3) Patience matters: I know it sounds like I'm pulling the parking brake on this one, but turning up the academic excellence is not always something equivalent to flash-boiling water on the stove.

First of all, schools need to ask themselves what is working well. Don't do things differently for the sake of doing it, any more than holding to tradition for the sake of tradition. Nothing ever happened in a vacuum, and a school is rooted in some sort of context they work with. Where many schools and school systems run aground is running after some sort of academic spearheading without tethering themselves to practices that have served them well.

Secondly, the moving parts of implementing a new academic vision will be constantly moving. The teaching profession is facing a hard reality: turnover rates among high school faculty in private school tend to hit 1 in every 5, whether they be "movers" (to another school) or "leavers" (as in jetting the profession). This means that whatever new vision a school has, chances are there will be some who start, some who leave, and some who come and go. That's a reality, and sometimes it may be difficult to make a lot of visible headway between the real and the ideal. 

Third, success takes time. A long time. Raising the academic profile is not a sprint, but a marathon; it's not a snapshot, but a motion picture. You are not microwaving a new vision; you build, one layer after another. There will be some things a school does well initially that it can keep working on; other things will be pitched aside. But nothing happens overnight. The Cubs' upward climb toward winning the 2017 World Series, for example, will be the culmination of years of hard work (I am not kidding, by the way, about 2017).

So yes, truth matters. Subject mastery matters. But seeing these things through is the character quality of patience. A school will need it in spades, and only then will a community of true learning see success.

No comments: